Kindness backfires: Sufferance, by Charles Palliser, reviewed

Charles Palliser’s Sufferance tells us what happens to one family in an occupied country during wartime. What sets it apart is that all the characters are unnamed. The country, region and historical period also remain unspecified. This indeterminacy lends the novel enormous power. The father of the family decides to take in a young girl from a minority ethnic group who has become separated from her own family. ‘I felt for her as if she was my own child,’ he says. Yet his motives are not entirely altruistic, since he believes he will be financially rewarded for looking after the girl. He is a lowly accountant working in the public

Donating to charity is too easy

It’s been a torrid few weeks for anyone who knows anyone who was running in the London Marathon. In have come the emails sent by the sender to himself or herself, and BCC’d no doubt to a very long list of the sender’s friends: ‘I’m running the London Marathon on 21 April, for [insert name of charity]. I’d be so pleased if you could sponsor me for this worthy cause. You’ll find my page on [JustGiving, or other similar websites]’ and a link is supplied. There’s no way of getting yourmoney back if your friend wobbles out of the marathon after five miles I’ve received a few of these and

Are Stonewall and Mermaids charitable?

Iwas once asked by a colleague to sponsor him on an undertaking designed, he said, to raise money for a very good charitable cause. I can’t remember what the cause was – cancer, maybe, or mental kids – but I do remember the nature of the undertaking. He intended to walk a number of miles down the Great Rift Valley in Kenya. Why not, I suggested, just donate the enormous amount of money such a trek would cost direct to the charity? It would easily outweigh the amount raised, not least because miserable bastards like me would probably decide it was not a charitable act at all but first-world grandstanding

Rewilding will kill Waitrose

‘Do you care about the woodland? Do you care about the wildlife?’ shouted the bearded Woodland Trust volunteer from his table of tree-hugging paraphernalia set up outside Waitrose. He had pitched his camp – a trestle table covered in leaflets and bedecked with pictures of foxes and badgers – so close to the supermarket entrance on Cobham High Street that it was impossible for customers to get through the doors without running the gauntlet of his leaflets. No doubt these leaflets explained that the Woodland Trust is the largest woodland conservation charity in the United Kingdom and is concerned with the creation, protection and restoration of our native woodland heritage.

The Manchester refugee charity representing the best of British

In October The Spectator will be heading to Manchester for Conservative party conference for the first time in two years, after last year’s event was cancelled because of the pandemic. While the return of party conferences is a welcome sign that things are finally getting back to normal, it’s also a reminder of the damage that Covid and its lockdowns caused over the last year and a half. Charities were hit hard by the pandemic facing closures after being unable to fundraise or campaign. That’s why The Spectator has decided this year to donate all the ticket money for our events at conference to a charity based in Greater Manchester: Caritas

My failed attempts to be a good Samaritan

I’ve been trying to be a good Samaritan for some time now and failing. But this week I discovered that even well-trained, experienced good Samaritans — who work for the Samaritans — can fail too. Reports have surfaced revealing the ‘abuse’ of vulnerable callers by a small number of the charity’s phone volunteers. It’s a sad state of affairs when even the Samaritans are subject to scandal. They do excellent work and have always been the Eton of Britain’s volunteer sector. Two years ago, I tried to get in and failed, which was a bit of a shock. I’d assumed that my listening skills would make me the ideal volunteer.

Why charity begins in shops

When everything re-opened after the first lockdown, I didn’t immediately head to a restaurant, bar or hairdresser. I went to the Second Chance charity shop on Blackstock Road in north London. It wasn’t that I was feeling particularly charitable. If anything, my visit came from a place of selfishness. I wanted to rootle around, alone, and find something unexpected — and probably pointless — in the piles of bric-à-brac. Out I came with a milk jug (£2.50) and a book titled Cool Names for Babies (50p) written by two women called Pamela Redmond Satran and Linda Rosenkrantz. I instantly felt better, as though the past few months had been a

Why I called Michael Gove to ask for some dosh for the teenage cancer trust

Is locking down again the right remedy for Britain, or will it only add to this country’s suffering in the long-term? It’s certainly been a disaster for many British charities — one report earlier this year estimated that there would be a £12 billion black hole in funding. And it’s been catastrophic for the charity I support: the Teenage Cancer Trust, which provides bespoke care for ill teenagers. An awful lot of people have heard of the Teenage Cancer Trust — but there’s something about teenagers that means they don’t pull at people’s heartstrings the same way that children do, so raising money is that bit more difficult. You could

The original Edinburgh Festival

Edinburgh, 3 November 1815. The university courtyard is buzzing. A band is playing. Surrounding streets are filled with thousands of excited spectators, many waiting since 10 a.m. From the Castle, from windows and rooftops, from Calton Hill, Holyrood Park and Salisbury Crags, all strain to get a glimpse. Then finally at 3 p.m., above the university, a large balloon suddenly emerges, climbing wondrously into the crisp November sky. Orchestrating this aeronautical display was pioneer English balloonist James Sadler. His balloon rose majestically as the westerly wind took it towards the sea. Sadler continued waving his flags as long as he could be seen, and the crowds applauded and gasped. Having

Sunak bails out charities – but are his measures actually working?

At Wednesday’s coronavirus briefing, Chancellor Rishi Sunak turned his attention (and the Treasury’s coffers) to the charity sector, which will receive £750 million to support vital services for the community. The money will be divided between small, local charities working with vulnerable people and charities that provide ‘essential services,’ with Sunak citing St John Ambulance and the Citizens Advice bureau as two examples of potential beneficiaries. The support comes as organisations like Cancer Research announced in recent days that they would have to scale back their medical research due to a projected drop in donations on which they rely to keep their services going. This pot will be intended to plug such funding

The case for a national hardship fund

As normal life rapidly shuts up shop around us, there’s a need to salvage something positive from the chaos. So perhaps there’s a good story yet to be written about that oldest but most unfashionable of virtues, charity. Before you roll your eyes, I am not saying that, in a time of such sudden and sharp economic downturn, we must dig deep into our pockets to help those struggling more than us. That’s admirable behaviour at any time, and if it’s still an option for you, all power to your elbow. Instead, I have in mind those businesses and entrepreneurs that – by virtue of this sudden inversion of human